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Maratha quota, GST dues: Team Uddhav meets PM Modi, hopeful of positive response

IN ONLY his second meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he became the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday held talks with the PM in New Delhi over state issues, as well as met him privately for about 30 minutes — setting political circles abuzz in the state.

Speaking to the media, Thackeray expressed satisfaction over the meetings, where he and two Cabinet members raised 12 issues, key among them being reservation for Marathas and GST dues. “We met the PM on important issues of the state and gave him notes on all. He heard us seriously and promised to look into them. We are hopeful the PM will resolve the issues positively.” The CM said he also thanked Modi on the change in vaccine policy, under which the Centre will now do the procurement.

Apart from Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and PWD Minister Ashok Chavan, Thackeray was accompanied by Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte.

On his one-on-one meeting with Modi, the CM said: “Today we are not politically together, but that does not mean that the relationship has broken. There is nothing wrong if I meet him. I didn’t go to meet Nawaz Sharif.” The Nawaz Sharif remark was apparently a reference to Modi’s surprise visit to the former Pakistani PM in December 2015. However, Thackeray did not give any details regarding what he discussed with the PM.

Chavan, who is the chairman of a Maharashtra Cabinet sub-committee on Maratha quota, said that as per the recent Supreme Court order, the final say in regard to inclusion or exclusion of SEBCs (Socially and Educationally Backward Classes) for reservations lies with the Centre. “So, we requested the PM to initiate the legal process. Even if states get the power for SEBC reservation, it will not be useful due to the 50% upper limit for reservation. There is a need to relax that limit. The PM assured us that he will get information on this and take further steps,” the Congress leader said.

On the Supreme Court staying the state’s reservation of 27% of seats in local bodies for OBCs, Thackeray requested Modi to provide the relevant data from the 2011 Census and to include OBC as a separate category in the 2021 Census. OBCs, it said, should be given constitutional status, the same as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, rather than remaining statutory.

The CM urged the PM to also move the apex court to dispose of all pending petitions on reservation in promotions.

The row over land for a Bombay Metro car depot also came up, with Thackeray seeking a unanimous solution outside the court. The Shiv Sena has led the issue from the front and it is likely to gain political momentum again ahead of the BMC polls early next year.

Over vaccines, Thackeray, welcoming the change in policy announced Monday, said: “We now expect the obstacles faced by us to be removed and all people, not just of Maharashtra but of the country, to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The other issues raised by the Thackeray-led delegation were the names for 12 nominated seats to the Legislative Council which are pending with the Governor; increase in compensation for people affected by natural calamities; the ‘Beed model’ of crop insurance, ensuring firms do not make more than 20% profit, to be implemented by the Centre; and payment of GST dues of Rs 24,306 crore owed to Maharashtra as well as of Rs 2,562 crore arrears to be given to local bodies as per the 14th Finance Commission.

As news emerged of the Modi-Thackeray separate meeting, BJP MP Udayan Raje claimed it would set in process reunion of the Shiv Sena and BJP, and “a new realignment of political forces in the state”. “The objective of the meeting was to put an end to the bitterness between the BJP and Sena,” Raje said.

The Sena and BJP have been at daggers drawn since their alliance crumbled in 2019. The Sena had gone on to tie up with the NCP and Congress for a Mahavikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra.

Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis, however, played down the meeting, saying it was as per protocol and no political motive should be attached to it. He told the media in Mumbai: “When a CM leads a delegation to meet the PM, he gives an audience to the entire delegation to discuss the subjects listed on agenda. After that, the general norm is that the PM separately holds talks with the CM on important state issues… I was the CM and led several delegations to the PM.”

Sena leader Sanjay Raut, senior Congress minister Balasaheb Thorat and Maharashtra NCP president Jayant Patil asserted that the MVA alliance was strong and that the government will complete its full term. Thorat said, “CM-PM meetings take place year after year.”

Patil said “there is nothing to be afraid of”. “We maintain a cordial relationship with leaders of other political parties. NCP chief Sharad Pawar maintains such relations. Sometimes controversies happen. There is nothing new about it.”

Raut said, “Our stand is that there should not be a conflict between the Centre and states. States need assistance from the Centre during a crisis and the CM and PM should have a dialogue for that.”

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